Inside: Is your child having trouble with counting objects? This is how I taught my 2-year-old one-to-one correspondence.
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We don’t always think about the building blocks that need to be in place for early learning — all the little cogs within the machine of our children’s brains.
Enter one-to-one correspondence. “One-to-one correspondence” is just a fancy term for the ability to keep track of what objects have been counted and what objects haven’t. It was one of those things that I hadn’t thought about before teaching my toddler, but it plays a role in the way our children process early math information.
When kids are little, they sometimes count objects twice or skip over counting some of them altogether. It’s because their brains haven’t begun to realize that each object needs to be counted and counted only once.
As kids grow and learn, one-to-one correspondence is normally picked up. But we can actually help our kids learn it faster by giving a concrete way for their brains to recognize what’s happening while counting.
And while it may seem like something difficult (it often seems hard to teach things that we don’t even think about!), it’s actually really simple.
How to Teach One-to-One Correspondence
So how do we go about teaching one-to-one correspondence?
For my quick video explanation over on our YouTube channel, click here:
Since recording the video, I created a few free printable options you can use for counting with your little one. Input your name and email below, and I’ll drop the download into your inbox! (By subscribing, you’ll also get our email newsletter)
IF YOU’RE ALREADY SUBSCRIBED, head over to the free resource library to download the counting mats!
Using These Printables
A simple way to teach one-to-one correspondence (the way I taught Arwyn) is by showing the objects moving from one concrete area to another.
First, you need a group of objects. You can try counting cubes, counting bears, the glass stones that I use in the video, cotton balls, Cheerios… almost ANYTHING! It just needs to be small enough to fit on the spaces provided on the printable.
Of course, be careful of choking hazards (I know you already know this). You know whether or not your child is ready for something like glass gems.
Next, pick which printable you actually want to use. You could pick the flower or bee hive printables and act like you’re moving buzzing bumble bees. Or use the lily pad printable and act like they’re hopping frogs. Or use the barnyard printable, and let your child pretend to be a farmer moving horses.
Whichever one you choose, make a game out of it! Kids learn best through play.
Next put all of your objects into the first space (flower, hive, lily pad, or fence). Then you’ll have your child slide the objects from the first space to the second, counting the objects out loud while moving them.
The first few times, you’ll likely want to put your hand on top of theirs while they move their manipulatives (just so they get the hang of it) and count out loud with them. As they begin to understand, hang back and see how many they can count on their own.
How Does This Work?
Like I said above, an easy way to show one-to-one correspondence when moving things from one concrete area to another. Why is that?
We can actually think of these two separate areas as groups. So one group consists of things that haven’t been counted while the other is made up of the things that have been counted. As your child moves the objects from one group to the next, it begins to solidify pathways in their brain.
Our understanding works best when we can see and interact with something in a concrete form first. Our brains can then begin to process how that concept works. Then we’re able to process that same information in more abstract ways.
Of course, all of that isn’t something we explain to our kids, but I love understanding what’s happening in their minds.
This is a simple activity, but it’s extremely effective in helping our little ones to understand how to count objects correctly.
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What other ways have you found for helping children understand one-to-one correspondence? I’d love for you to share, so leave those in the comments below!
Until next time,